Re: Job Futures for Tech Writing

Subject: Re: Job Futures for Tech Writing
From: jlee <jlee -at- UWSA -dot- SPK -dot- WA -dot- US>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 1994 16:52:34 GMT

CNSEQ1:TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu's message of 11-30-94 10:23

>> I am in the process of investigating tech writing jobs, and
>> I have had several people in the business state that the future
>> (and near future at that) of tech writing is primarily in
>> contract work.

On 12/1/94 at 9:05, Gwen Gall, ggall -at- CA -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM, wrote:

> This trend disturbs me. It reflects the continuing (and
> perhaps increasing?) perception that documentation is
> something that is done at the end of a project, quickly,
> by someone with "wordsmithing skills", little technical
> knowledge, and no necessary knowledge of the product being
> documented.

In six years of contracting, I find this perception prevails in smaller
firms without a permanent technical writing staff. OTOH, when
I'm hired by firms that have a technical writing staff, I'm usually
brought in at an earlier stage of product development.

Gwen Gall, ggall -at- CA -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM, continues:

>I have seen (and had to fix) too many manuals that were
>badly written, inaccurate, and incomplete thanks to
>contractors. NOT because the contractors themselves were
>inherently incompetent, but because they were not given
>sufficient time, access to the product, or respect.

>This is a trend we should resist....

An important part of contracting is development of time (cost)
estimates when soliciting the job. If you do not include enough
time to do the job well, including time to access the product, the
result certainly will be badly written, inaccurate, and incomplete.
Some clients will give you the time after you explain why you need
it. Too many others cannot give you the time because they
waited too late and did not include their documentation as a part
of the product development process.

If the trend we're supposed to resist is the trend to use contractors,
I don't know that we (technical writers) can do that. That trend is
controlled by those who hire technical writers. In one local example,
a firm that once had a writing staff of 20 people now employs
only 2 writers. The firm occasionally hires the writers dismissed
during downsizing on a contractual basis. It's hard to resist taking
that contract if you're out of work.

- I have principles. If you don't like those, I have others.

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